Global Economic Inequalities: Microcredit Lending
Students in an introductory international politics class study and learn about problems associated with globalization and structural global economic inequalities and working in teams then make actual microcredit loans to prospective borrowers on the KIVA.org website. This set of activities is done over a 2-3 week period, in conjunction with a major course unit on the international politics of the global economic system.
Week One: Significant ground-laying needs to be done prior to the actual loan-making. We explore basic aspects of the Global South's economic context, local-global connections, global north-south divide; alternatives to top-down, export-oriented, trade-driven, globalization and development; concept of sustainable development should be analyzed and understood.To prepare for the actual loan-making, students read and discuss relevant sections describing basic global economic structures, processes, interactions, and international politics of the global economy (aid, trade, MNC investment, multilateral loans); Chapter 4, "The Global South in a World of Powers," in Kegley, World Politics, Trend and Transformation, (2011 edition, pp.101-35) as well as excerpts from the book: Just Give Money to the Poor, (2010, pp.78-81), and Thriving Beyond Sustainability, (2010: pp.116-18). With this macro-level context established, we then examine the nature and significance of microcredit lending, view a section of the documentary "Local Heroes, Global Change" on the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and then write and discuss the film and the critique of microcredit lending programs from Just Give Money to the Poor.
Week Two: Student teams are then be briefed by Professor Ellie Du Pre and the student managers of the Central College social justice initiatives group "Change for Change." They recently initiated a Central College lending team on the KIVA.org site. In making a loan, students will also, in effect, be joining the community-wide effort. Our current loan portfolio will be reviewed along with the basic parameters available to them as new lenders, on the KIVA website. Students will have to struggle the set priorities and make choices from among the KIVA loan-making parameters: gender, region, project type, as well as deciding from among the dozens of individual borrowers and their projects.
Week Three: Students are then given the assignment of making an actual $25 microcredit loan (money provided to them from Change for Change, as new funds are raised across campus and loans are repaid, allowing for re-lending) to a borrower they select from KIVA.org a direct lender-to-borrower social justice/economic equity/grassroots development NGO.
Learning Goal: to raise awareness of global sustainability injustices and inequalities, measured at the real-world global south intersections among social justice/economic equity/ecological integrity circles.
Students will move from abstractly to minutely/acutely aware of the nature, meaning, and extent of economic dependency and powerlessness, complexities and challenges of sustainable development, and the power and resourcs of the global north (represented by the power to make a cash loan) and the corresponding lack of empowerment options by people, families, and communities in global south.
This assignment offers students a concrete one-on-one, local-global nexus for the testing and application of our shared working definitions of international politics: Lasswell: "Who gets what, when, and how;" Easton: "Authoritative allocation of scarce values for a society;" Anderson: "Making Decisions for others."
It also attempts to apply elements of the AASHE Curriculum Working Group "Sustainability Education Framework" (7-09):
Principle 3: "Sustainability education extends globally"
Educational Goal: "An intercultural and intergenerational perspective that nurtures empathy, awareness, and respect"
Student Learning Outcomes: Sustainability education prepares students to:
- Empathize with cross-cultural perspectives and examine how cultural assumptions correspond to environmental and social problems.
- Articulate the relationship between poverty, security, social justice, and environmental degradation.
- Recognize issues of intergenerational responsibility and be able to articulate a positive vision for a just and sustainable society.
- Understand how local, regional, and national actions have global impacts.
Principle 5 : "Sustainability education highlights connections"
Educational Goal: A collaborative perspective on sustainability challenges that bridges academic disciplines
Student Learning Outcomes:
- Realize why sustainability demands participation from all academic disciplines
- Distinguish how human systems of economy, politics, and culture become enmeshed with ecological concerns
Principle 6: "Sustainability education nurtures personal and social responsibility"
Educational Goal: An informed, ethical, and scholarly sense of citizenship
Student Learning Outcomes:
- Identify normative assumptions and ethical frameworks for sustainability including equity, justice, human rights, and extending the moral community.
- Formulate personal values within the context of a larger society and grasp how these values are manifested in daily habits.
- Understand humans' place in ecological systems.
- Evaluate how principles of environmental ethics apply to diverse issues such as population, habitat quality, affluence, and energy use.
- Integrate virtues such as empathy, inquisitiveness, respect, and humility into personal responses to environmental problems
Principle 7: "Sustainability education fosters transformation"
- Educational Goal: A commitment to action where skills, attitudes and knowledge are applied to issues of sustainability
Student Learning Outcomes:
- Develop skills and strategies to enter into political discourse relating to environmental issues
- Analyze environmental rhetoric and create persuasive arguments that address sustainability issues
- Advocate for change through collaboration, mediation, and consensus-building strategies
- Commit to social change based upon collective visions of a sustainable future
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Mechanics and Materials:
- Read: Chapter 4, "The Global South in a World of Powers," in Kegley, World Politics, Trend and Transformation, (2011 edition, pp.101-35); excerpts from: Just Give Money to the Poor, (2010, pp.78-81), and Thriving Beyond Sustainability, (2010: pp.116-18).
- View: a section of the documentary "Local Heroes, Global Change" on the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and then write and discuss the film and the critique of microcredit lending programs from Just Give Money to the Poor.
- Reflect and Record: what are the international system -level roots of global economic inequality and specifically widespread poverty in global south states? Critically examine the nature and significance of microcredit lending as a solution. Write a 1-2 page reflective essay; draw from assigned readings and the video.
- Research: go to the KIVA.org website; learn about KIVA and how the borrowing and lending processes work; each member of the team should then select, read, and report back to other team members on at least 5 borrower profiles. Rank-order your borrowers, in terms of which seem to you to be the best ones to support with a microloan; give your reasons for selecting (use the categories tabs on the website to narrow down your candidates)
- Share and Report: with the rest of your group and all groups with the rest of the class (in-class discussion)
- Groups Reconvene: deliberate and select one borrower; make your case– write out a brief rationale why you chose who you did)
- Summary Assessment:a brief sharing and discussion, adapted from question #4 from Local Heroes series: "Much has been said about the idea of 'helping the poor to help themselves.' From what you have read, seen, done, and learned in this unit, do you feel clearer about the kinds of assistance to people in the global south that you would support in the years ahead? Summarize what you have learned, in terms of dos and don'ts."
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Short reflective essays
- Group leaders' brief oral summary reports
- Electronic journaling or blogging on class Blackboard site
- Full class discussion and sharing of individuals' and lending teams experiences.
References and Resources
Charles W. Kegley and Shannon L. Blanton, World Politics: Tren and Transformation, (Wadsworth: 2010-11 edition)
Andres R. Edwards, Thriving Beyond Sustainability, (New Society Publishers: 2010)
Joseph Hanlon, Armondo Barrientos, and David Hulme, Just Gove Money to the Poor, (Kumarian Press: 2010)
PBS Video, Local Heroes, Global Change (Program One: "With Our Own Eyes," Section Two: "Women and the Invisible Poor,").